UNWIELDY ONES ABANDONED, NOT EATEN

Pet minipigs grow in popularity, girth

by Saori Miyagawa

Kyodo

Featured on TV programs and commercials, miniature pigs are becoming popular pets, but despite increasing numbers of Web sites dedicated to rearing them, owners can be in for a few surprises, not least their tendency to get too big to handle.

Yumiko Murata, 32, of the city of Ageo, Saitama Prefecture, said it was “love at first sight” when she bought her miniature pig, a species originally bred for use in biomedical research, at a pet shop in 2003 for 80,000 yen.

The shop clerk told Murata, who had only kept a hamster before, that she could give it chicken feed. But the minipig developed diarrhea, and four months later she read on the home page of Shigehisa Kobayashi, who wrote a book about how to raise the animals, that the diarrhea was caused by antibiotics in the chicken feed. Special food was needed.

The second minipig she bought, in 2004, a male, started rutting even though the dealer said it had been neutered.

Despite these troubles, Murata is now comfortable with life with her minipigs. However, she says complaints about dealers are rampant among minipig owners.

Murata’s home page has been accessed about 100 times a day and she gets a lot of people asking her about keeping minipigs.

She replies, “Pigs are not as obedient as dogs, and the male sex has tusks. You will be in trouble unless you properly understand and raise them.”

Minipigs can grow to exceed 200 kg. Without proper exercise and nutritional control their weights will start to surpass 100 kg.

One pig of nearly 100 kg was so big its owner couldn’t move it downstairs from the second floor where it was kept, Murata said.

Local governments and animal protection organizations are getting calls from minipig owners saying the animals have gotten too large to keep. One was abandoned by a river.

As there is no system to find new owners, unlike for dogs and cats, “it is up to individuals to find new keepers, or they should ask veterinarians to dispose of the animals,” said an official in charge of health and welfare at the Tokyo metropolitan government.

The revised Animal Protection and Control Law that took effect in June obliges pet dealers to provide information on pets and how to raise them at the time of purchase.

Katsuhiko Shoji, head of the Animal Protection and Control Section at the Environment Ministry, warns against impulse purchases of minipigs.

“Easy purchases are unfortunate for both keepers and pigs. Before buying them, buyers should give full consideration to their living environment,” Shoji said.